New Zealand Ironman

30 Mar 2009 7:41 PM | Deleted user

Ironman New Zealand

By Ben Distel

In March last year I was at Ironman China (not competing) feeling out of shape, out of energy and 5kg overweight. I guess being around fit bodies and the excitement of the spectators makes you make irrational decisions, so I made one: I decided to give Ironman one more try. Ironman start.jpg

When you really think about it, Ironman is just stupid: 3.8km swim in open water (the warm-up), 180km solo cycling (the meat) and then a marathon run (the icing on the cake).  Some say you would be out of your mind to enter, but somehow the challenge just calls to others. Ironman is to triathletes what Everest is to mountaineers; Lamborghini is to car lovers, the World Series is to baseball lovers ….. you get the idea. Ironman is also called “the toughest day in sports” and participants and supporters take every opportunity to show off their toughness, witnessed by the best T-shirt of the day saying: “If Ironman were easy it would be called Rugby

Upon my return from China I bought a nice bottle of wine, cooked an especially good dinner for my wife, Monique, and broke the news that I wanted to do another Ironman. The announcement was met by a profound silence, the reason being that we had both trained for Ironman Florida in 2004 and she knew what the decision entailed. We had put our lives on hold for 10 months to focus on training: no parties, less indulgent dinners, champagne brunches replaced by hours spent cycling the lonely roads of Wisconsin, and after-work drinks replaced by runs along the lakefront. When it snowed we’d be doing 3 hour training sets on our indoor bike trainers and I can’t begin to count the times we were in the pool at 6am. Competing in an Ironman is hard, but the year of committed training makes it especially tough and without your family’s support it is impossible. Fortunately, my wife is a wonderfully understanding woman and was quite excited by the prospect. Also, without a full time job I would have the opportunity to train well and still have reasonable amounts of family time.

Training for an Ironman requires about 9-12months, depending on your fitness level, so the first quarter of 2009 was the earliest I could do it. The event in New Zealand in March was chosen as I prefer racing in a moderate climate, we could tag on a family holiday after the race, and I knew I could get the nutrition I required there.

Ironman New Zealand, the world’s oldest international Ironman, is held in the waters and on the streets in and around the beautiful town of Taupo in New Zealand’s North Island. This year it celebrated its 25th anniversary and there were a record 1500 entries of which over 1300 turned up: 1235 made it to the finish. Two of the Kiwi participants had raced each of the previous 24 editions; one entrant put us all to shame announcing he was racing his 107th Ironman; 7 time winner Cameron Brown was there to defend his crown and 6 time female winner Joanna Lawn lined up hoping for victory number 7. Legendary Aussie Ricky May was at the start along with a strong contingent of athletes from Japan, including my swim partners Eric Hermand and Richard Kimber, and a slew of fast looking Japanese who were determined to kick our behinds.Bike leg finish.jpg

I won’t go into details about the race because quite frankly, unless you are in the race yourself a grass growing contest is more interesting. The race started at 7am and we made it to the finish line sometime before midnight. Heartbreakingly, 2 athletes just missed the midnight cutoff finishing time: they both did the same hard work we all did but sadly don’t have the official finishers’ medal or t-shirt to show for it. Cameron Brown won his 8th New Zealand Ironman (new race record of 8:18:05) with Joanna Lawn coming in 2nd of the women, being pipped by Gina Ferguson.

After the race Monique and I had a great week’s vacation in Kiwi-land. We indulged in cheese and wine, saw some of the most amazing landscape we’ve ever seen and enjoyed the heck out of it.

My next event is the Tokyo Marathon but I can’t get the other great T-shirt out of my mind “You run marathons? How cute. Ironman”.

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